Major Tom Whale, from the Australian Defence Force, has been working to clear massive trees which fell in the Botanic Gardens after Cyclone Marcia. Photo Rachael Conaghan/The Morning Bulletin
Major Tom Whale, from the Australian Defence Force, has been working to clear massive trees which fell in the Botanic Gardens after Cyclone Marcia. Photo Rachael Conaghan/The Morning Bulletin Rachael Conaghan

Major Tom leads ground control in Cyclone Marcia's mess

TWO weeks ago Major Tom Whale was in Townsville completing training exercises with the Australian Army, until a midnight phone call summoned him to Rockhampton.

Since then he's been actively involved in the clean-up that followed Cyclone Marcia, with particular focus on the Botanic Gardens.

He said that after the cyclone there were concerns the fallen trees and widespread debris would impact on Anzac Day celebrations at the cenotaph.

The dawn service at the gardens typically attracts thousands of people, and with the hard work of groundskeepers and the ADF the grounds are slowly getting back to normal in preparation for the event.

Sapper Blake Jarjoura, who is also assisting in the clean-up, described the damage as "atrocious" when they first got there.

Massive trees had blocked off the roads, some with trunks almost taller than the average person.

Major Whale said it could take hours to cut up and remove just one of the massive trees, and it took them about two and half days just to clear the main road from the street to the roundabout.

Corporal Stewart Eddelston said the gardens had been trashed by Marcia.

"It's still a beautiful place, but to get it back up to the standard it must have been at before the cyclone, there's months of hard work ahead for the ground staff here," he said.

For many of the soldiers it's their first disaster experience, but before coming to Rocky Cpl Eddelston assisted in clean-up efforts in the Philippines after Typhoon Yolanda hit in 2013.

"That was huge. I think environmentally, the damage around here is potentially more, from what I've seen," he said. "Structurally however, being in Australia we've held up a little better, but there's still people out there obviously who did lose a significant amount of their house."

On Thursday Cpl Eddelston and Spr Jarjoura worked with Spr Josh Cukurins and Spr Steven Bowtell to cut up fallen trees and transport them to the chippers for disposal.



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